comics at hay!
Hurrah! We got comics into this year’s Hay Festival! Here are our two fabulous editors (and fellow contributors!) Woodrow Phoenix and Rob Davis, holding a lovely copy of our graphic novel, NELSON.
If you follow my blog, you will have seen loads about NELSON and our launch events already, but if not, here’s a little peek:
NELSON‘s a comic book for adults, in which 54 of Britain’s top creators each took a day in the year of a woman’s life and, basically, we created a person. I got 1973, when Nel was five years old. So Rob Davis had taken 1968, the year Nel (and her brother, Sonny) were born, and made a comic, then Woodrow Phoenix took 1969, my studio mate Ellen Lindner took 1970, Jamie Smart took 1971, and another of my studio mates, Gary Northfield, took 1972. I read all of their comics, then decided what would happen in the next year of Nel’s life, and created three pages of comics about her first day at school, in 1973. The book continues like that, with creators each taking a year until 2011, when Rob, who’s initial idea it was, brings it back to a close.
Photo by Bridget Hannigan
There was already lots going on at Hay when we arrived! We met up with Oliver Jeffers in the Green Room, who urged us to come along and paint on his Jumpers wall. We saw MP Tom Watson and got him to come along and paint with us.
Oliver Jeffers, Lisa Dwan, Woodrow Phoenix, Kristyna Baczynski, Tom Waton, Sarah McIntyre, Rob Davis
It was funny, because we’d been having a big debate in the van about the way Oliver always puts matchstick legs on his characters, even the big hefty ones, like a bear. Our camp was very divided on whether we liked that schtick or not. Rob didn’t know Oliver’s work, so when he looked it up his website on his phone, he laughed to see the very first image was Oliver’s book, Stuck, which we all decided was the past tense of having stick legs.
The idea was that everyone would paint a jumper on one of the little bean characters, then sign at the bottom. Here’s a Gruffalo jumper by Axel Scheffler, who was just leaving when we arrived. And you can spot a few signatures below, including Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie.
Kristyna (whose name I learned is pronounced “kriss-TEN-ah”, like the number ten), Lisa and Rob having a go at painting:
And Oliver drawing up a few new characters for us to paint. I didn’t quite hear the directions, that we were only supposed to paint a jumper, so I gave mine a bit tam-o’-shanter and an enormous red beard, as Oliver called out, ‘Wait, what are you doing??!’. Then he was nice and said it was okay.
You can’t see my painted bean here, this is the wall before we started on it, but you can catch a glimpse of it above everyone’s heads in the earlier group photo. I like the red ball of real wool, that’s a nice touch.
and Tom gets going on his:
Here’s Tom’s brand-new book, Dial M for Murdoch. Wow, this one came out fast! If you’re not in Britain, you might not know about Tom’s role in the Leveson Inquiry trying to sort out the News International phone hacking scandal. It’s been pretty big news here. Tom’s been working on this book and he was so worried about its contents leaking that he was carrying his manuscript with him everywhere he went and sleeping with it next to his bed. Which made Gary and me go saucer-eyed when he visited our studio and actually LEFT the satchel with the manuscript lying on one of our desks. We joked about photocopying all the pages and selling them to the highest bidder, but actually, we were too nervous even to touch the satchel, we treated it a bit like a bomb until he came back for it. …Tom’s ace, and a great supporter of British comics.
Hay was very different to other comics events! Usually at a comics fair, we hardly have time to grab a sandwich, so we were all chuffed to bits when we were given an amazing lunch, with anything we wanted to eat and drink at the festival restaurant.
Here are Kristyna and me tucking into the nommy summer puddings.
And champagne for all! More comics events should be like this.
Andy Stanton (Mr Gum books, Here Comes the Poo Bus picture book) was sitting at the next table and it turned out he knew Woodrow from way back when, and Steve Marchant (who’s the comics artist with the crazy hair in another recent blog post).
And our comics appearance owes everything to this fabulous lady, Sophie Lording, who directs Hay Fever, the part of the Hay Festival that’s specifically for children and families. NELSON isn’t a children’s book, but Sophie follows our blogs and was keen to let comics have a presence at the festival. So, hurrah, Sophie, and thank you!
Sophie keep the Hay Fever blog going, and you can read a comic I made for it over here.
So, back to our event! Thanks so everyone who braved the howling wind and rain to come along. The stars in the Starlight Stage were really swinging!
If you’d like to follow any or all of us on Twitter, here you go: Woodrow Phoenix (@mrphoenix), Rob Davis (@Robgog), Kristyna Baczynski (@kbaczynski), me (@jabberworks), our publisher (@BlankSlateBooks), our publicist (@Steenton). And here’s a list of a lot of the NELSON contributors! You can also follow Lisa Dwan (@lisadwan), Sophie Lording (@sophielording), Oliver Jeffers (@OliverJeffers), Tom Watson (@tom_watson), Andy Stanton (@andystantontm) and Marcus Sedgwick (@MarcusSedgwick), who was there but I didn’t manage to snap a photo.
Here’s another little peek at my entry to our fab NELSON book. You can read more about it here on the Blank Slate website. It’s a great entry into comics if you’re not used to reading them, and an excellent way of discovering whose work you like, so you can follow them up and find more of their comics.
Our journey to Hay felt very much like a school trip, and was an EPIC five hours. But so interesting! I sat between Rob and Bridget Hannigan (@bridge), and we discussed everything from colour theory to typography, the designer Chip Kidd, and fruit sherbets.
Our publisher, Kenny Penman, doesn’t like having his photo taken, but I have to slip in at least one picture because he’s the driving force behind NELSON being merely an idea between Rob and Woodrow on Twitter, and an actual printed book. Kenny has another full-time day job with Forbidden Planet International, but publishes in the rest of his time, and does an amazing job giving a platform to some top-notch British talent. Kenny rocks. Do explore some of Blank Slate’s other publications, there’s some great stuff there.
We talked about having stiff drinks after our bookshop signing, but it was so cold that somehow we all ended up ordering cups of tea instead.
And then everyone claimed their four bottles of bubbly.
The rest of the gang went back in the van the same night (killer!) but I stayed a night in Hereford, with Anne Cottringer (@cantilupe), the fabulous writer of our adventure picture book, When Titus Took the Train. Anne’s a film maker and had just had a screening of her new film about young farmers, Tune for the Blood, screened at Hay two nights earlier. Congratulations, Anne, and thanks for putting me up!
Here’s a clip from her Tune for the Blood, where you can get a look at some of the beautiful Welsh countryside that surrounds the Hay Festival. I love the bit where the sheep are swarming into the pen and every once in awhile, one will go popping up into the air. And the concentration of the farmer separating the different sheep is pretty impressive.
And then it was time to go back home through that lovely countryside. I’ll be back at Hay next week for three children’s book events, so if you’re around next weekend, please do come along! Details and booking information here.